Who has never heard of the Musketeers and of their motto “all for one, one for all”? There are countless books describing their adventures – the most famous Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” published in 1844 – and so far 25 movies, the most recent the BBC historical-action drama “The Musketeers” broadcasted starting January 2014.
A musketeer (French: mousquetaire) was an early modern soldier equipped with a musket, a muzzle-loaded, smoothbore firearm, fired from the shoulder.
The most famous of the musketeers are of course d’Artagnan and his three friends Athos, Porthos and Aramis.
These four characters are fictionalized versions of real musketeers who lived in France in the 17th century and own their fame no less to Dumas’ brilliant pen than their adventurous life.
The real Athos, Porthos, Aramis and d’Artagnan and other less known musketeers like Epernon, Gassion – who later became marshal -, Lauzun and Gramont – future marshal as well-, were all sons of little Gascogne – the ancient south west of France province – nobility who, without substantial inheritance, achieved social advancement by embracing military careers at the French royal court.
It is less known that Alexandre Dumas was himself briefly a musketeer for the “1st Musketeer Company” created by Louis XVIII in 1814.
D’Artagnan the central character of the “The Three Musketeers” whose real whole name was Charles de Batz de Castelmore d’Artagnan was born in his family’s manor near the town of Lupiac in the nowadays department of Gers in the south west of France. The year of birth is not known – as records of the parish the family belonged to were lost – but the event occured most likely between 1610 and 1615. His departure from Lupiac to Paris took probably place between 1625 and 1630 when he would have been around 15 years old. It is at that age that a young nobleman was learning a soldier’s trade.
The first document linked to d’Artagnan dates from 1633, when his name appears on the register of the “Company of Musketeers”.
In 1646, d’Artagnan entered the personal service of Cardinal Mazarin, Prime Minister of France at that time, who dismantled that year the “Company of Musketeers”.
In April 1660 d’Artagnan escorted Louis XIV from Paris to Saint Jean de Luz – in the extreme south west at the border between France and Spain – for his weeding to Infanta Maria Theresa. The cortege stopped on the 25th of April overnight in Vic-Fezensac at 14km (or 8mi) from his family town of Lupiac. It was one of the few times that the musketeer visited his native Gascony during his adult life.
Around the same time D’Artagnan became a man of confidence of King Louis XIV who charged him with several diligent and discreet missions.
In 1667 d’Artagnan becomes “Lieutenant-Captain of the First Company of Musketeers” serving in the king’s guard. He was later elevated to the rank of general officer rank that implied he would accompany the king on military campaigns.
D’Artaganan died heroically at the assault of Maastrich (nowadays Holland) on the 25th of June 1673. The same day King Louis XIV wrote to the queen: “Madame, I have lost d’Artagnan, in whom I had the utmost confidence and who merited it in all occasions.”
Nowadays Lupiac honors his most famous native with a d’Artagnan museum. Also each summer at the beginning of August the association “D’Artagana chez d’Artagnan” organizes “D’Artagnan Festival” that brings back to life for one day on the streets of the village the world of the musketeers!
Hi, I am Carla. I am living and working in the beautiful city of Toulouse, France.
I like history, travel and... the southwest of France and try to share through this blog information about events that might be of interest to the travelers to this part of the world!